Two travel grants were awarded to alumnae Moe Takenoshita and Anna Orhling.
Moe Takenoshita (Class of 2016)
Improving water supply is a particular priority in developing countries and last summer I visited Bangladesh to investigate how the country tackled this challenge.
Water accessibility and quality is a major determinant of public health. Poor water quality can spread infectious diseases, such as cholera and rotavirus, as well as non-infectious diseases including arsenic and lead poisoning. In 2015, 29% of the global population still did not have access to safe drinking water and ensuring ‘availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’ is Goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Bangladesh is one of the few places in the world with naturally high groundwater arsenic contamination. As the use of tube wells increased, prevalence and severity of arsenic poisoning escalated to the point that that the WHO declared a public health emergency in 2000. To gain an insight into how the country addressed this epidemic, I followed a joint research team headed by Cambridge University and ICDDR,B (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh), measuring arsenic levels in the ground water of rural Bangladeshi communities, and developing methods of improving local water quality and use.
The Ganges Delta in Bangladesh and India is also unique in being the origin of the majority of the world’s cholera epidemics. Bangladesh is one of the few non-African countries where the disease is endemic, with approximately 110,000 cases per year in 2008-2012. Through large city, district and community hospital visits, interviews with village health workers and experts at the national Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) ad ICDDR,B, I learnt how communicable diseases like cholera were controlled with limited resources and infrastructure. An interdisciplinary strategy was paramount. Given the severe shortage of physicians (0.47 per 1,000) and the strong influence of local figures of authority such as imams and community representatives, the country depended heavily on community engagement to target domestic hygiene, sanitary and cultural practices and health-seeking behaviour to improve public health. Their evidence-based policy-making also targeted education, medical and water supply infrastructure as well as clinical practice.
In addition, the Rohingya refugee crisis brought further urgent public health concerns. There are particular fears of a cholera outbreak. Speaking to experts, the regional WHO and UNICEF offices in Cox’s Bazaar, I gained an insight into the complex relationship between host, refugee and international partners in tackling these issues. I learnt the logistical, political and sociocultural barriers to an effective health sector response.
My experience in Bangladesh has been truly eye-opening. I aspire to join Medecin Sans Frontieres in the future and having evaluated the strategies used in Bangladesh, I hope to build on their merits, learn from their shortfalls, and identify possible ways to address them in my future career. I cannot thank the donors enough for making this transformative experience possible.
Ali M, Nelson AR, Lopez AL, Sack DA. Updated global burden of cholera in endemic countries. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2015;9(6):e0003832. Published 2015 Jun 4. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003832
CIA World Factbook, 2015
Anna Ohrling (Class of 2008)
I’d like to tell you a little about an incredible, eye-opening trip I was able to take to Bangalore, India. This trip was only made possible through the generosity and kindness of others, including FHS. I cannot thank you enough.
Towards the end of my Master’s in Sustainability and Social Innovation at HEC Paris, I wanted to travel to India to meet some incredible organisations and people fighting for a fairer, better world. One of the biggest challenges our generation will face will be population explosion. Growing economies and fairer societies whilst also using significantly fewer resources will require previously unseen cooperation, innovation and passion. India is facing this issue already, and is investing huge amounts into sustainability and the CSR sector to find solutions. I wanted to meet some of these people. Having attended Francis Holland School from the age of 11 to 18, after which I went to the University of Oxford, I know first-hand how important it is to receive a great education as a girl and a young woman. Fighting for a world in which more girls have access to education is a personal passion of mine. I met with entrepreneurs, women and girls in Bangalore to hear how the worlds of education and sustainability are absolutely linked. A few specific visits were especially memorable.
We visited Akshaya Patra (above) a non-profit organisation who feeds 1.7 million school children for free, every single day. They knew that if children could not eat healthy, good food for free in schools, they simply would stop going. Their mission is to ensure food access to every child in India who wants to go to school and is unable to afford to buy food. From this, they’ve created some of the worlds most efficient and advanced mass kitchens and operations. The brilliant work that they have done at Akshaya Patra has generations as changed the lives of millions of children. A totally different experience, but just as memorable, was our meeting with a social impact accelerator in Bangalore: Make Sense.
We heard about how we might be able to educate girls to be the next generations ambassadors against plastic waste in India, how household waste could be turned into playgrounds for children (free play leads to increased creativity - a skill which will be undeniably important to future generations) as well as from the Textile Exchange, who told us about how important women are to the future of Organic and Fair Trade cotton. Changing the world is not going to be an easy task. But it is the task that our generation has been given. Meeting the men and women in India who are already trying was inspirational to say the least. We’ve created connections that will enable us to work together one day. For this, I want to thank FHS for their support, both through the Old Girls Travel Fund, but more importantly through the wonderful education I was given as a girl and young woman.